The HUM: #Humboldt?

HUMBOLDT’S NAMESAKE A young Baron Alexander von Humboldt collects plant samples while traveling in Venezuela in a portrait by Friedrich Weitsch (1806). Montage by Bob Doran
Or the same, montage by Bob Doran

A few years ago I began a podcast project I titled: #Humboldt? For reasons I won’t go into now, it never really went anywhere, but I interviewed a lot of people about what they think about Humboldt, and also what they know about Alexander von Humboldt, the man our home county is named after. 

The nature of “home” came up a lot, as well as the superiority of Humboldt homegrown cannabis, and the importance of the Humboldt “brand.” The general lack of information about Alexander surprised me. Many knew he was some sort of “explorer,” and quite a few assumed (incorrectly) that he discovered Humboldt Bay. Those who knew a little about him, knew that he was German (actually Prussian) and that he was famous, but few knew for exactly what. Botanist? Cartographer? Astronomer? 

In part, my project was inspired by a book, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by the British historian Andrea Wulf about the famous polymath, his travels, his life and his longtime influence. Her goal, as she explained when she spoke at HSU, was in part to explain how Humboldt became a “rock star” in his day (and to return him to that status). 

Now, saying Humboldt was responsible for “the invention of nature” is a bit of hyperbole, but he was a deep thinker/naturalist and his major work, Cosmos, synthesized his thinking into something akin to ecology. He recognized that “all living systems are linked and mutually dependent on each other,” as the folks behind Planet Humboldt put it. Along with people around the world, the local group is celebrating the man and his work Saturday, Sept. 14, on the 250th anniversary of Alexander’s birth. (Berlin, his hometown, is headquarters for an international celebration that includes Humboldt! The Musical, so he may get rock star status yet.) 

Our local Planet Humboldt consists of several parts: first an all-day colloquium, Ideas Exchange, at the Sequoia Center in Eureka (10 a.m. until 6 p.m.) with “expert speakers and panel discussions with people working for human-nature harmony around the globe,” on topics including “Communities of Spirit, Hands-on Tools for Action, Von Humboldt’s ‘Invention of Nature’ and his legacy today,” plus the proverbial “and more.” 

There will be a lecture by Dr. Oliver Lubrich of Berlin, foremost authority on Humboldt’s influence on literature (Alexander inspired Thoreau and Muir), and “back-to-the-land” pioneers David Simpson and Jane Lapiner will speak on climate issues. Richard Geinger of Redwood Forest Foundation duels with Gary Rynearson of Green Diamond Timber with contrasting views on “sustainability.” Other presentations cover solar power, fire dangers, etc. 

A parallel Resiliency Fair outside offers a chance to network with “providers of products, services, knowledge, and inspiration” and “learn about sustainable enterprise, green industry, and Humboldt Made products.”

The Fire of Life Awards Reception is that evening at 7:30 p.m. (again at the Sequoia Center) honors local “citizens-of-the-earth” including David and Jane, Mr. Geinger, ecologist Michael Furniss, and HSU International Studies Professor Lilianet Brintrup. The dinner ($35) is a benefit for local Fire Safe Councils and the Redwood Rotary Disaster Relief Fund. 

Meanwhile, out in Blue Lake’s Perigot Park, Forever Found Humboldt presents the first ever Funk ’N‘ Reggae Music Festival that weekend Sept. 14 and 15. Originally planned as a “B Street Block Party” near Forever Found’s Eureka headquarters, the event was moved to Blue Lake, in part because of the inclusion of Saturday headliner Michael Franti and Spearhead meant they needed more room. 

In addition to Franti, the Saturday line-up has local funksters Object Heavy, Guerrilla Takeover, The Higher Logic Project, Mystical Lion with Ju Drum, The Stallions, Morgan D’Vinity and Eyere Eyes.

On Sunday (Sept. 15) reggae veteran Don Carlos (of Black Uhuru fame) headlines with the funky B’Swizlo’s Mystery Lounge, more reggae from Arkaingele and Seed N Soil, Ishi Dube, The Stallions (again), Dub Fyah and DJ Rundat. 

Those who have only attended relatively smaller events in P. Park like the Buddy Brown Blues Fest and Lawnstock should understand that F’n’R will have its main stage on home plate of the ball park instead of behind the roller rink. That area will become the “Family Zone” including a “360 Degree Projection Dome Stage/Theatre” with “full-immersion artistic content and planetarium shows,” photo ops with Sesame Street characters, bubbles, “and more.”  

Gates open at 10 a.m, music starts at 11 a.m. both days and goes until 9 p.m. on the main stage Saturday followed by Silent Disco (with headphones) until midnight. Sunday’s show ends at 7 p.m. Parking won’t be easy, overflow will be at the nearby Blue Lake Casino. There’s camping available, but how it works is unclear.

Returning to the meaning of #Humboldt?, Forever Found, Humboldt’s inaugural festival, is sponsored by a couple of canni-businesses, Heart of the Emerald Dispensary, and Humboldt County Grown. 

Event producer, Roy Gomez says, “This event is for our community to celebrate the end of summer and harvest.”

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On Sunday, Sept. 15, you have yet another take on #Humboldt, with Forever Humboldt - Alumni joining forces with HSU ASPresents to present Tropa Magica at the Arcata Playhouse. This is another in a series of Latinx dance concerts, this one with East L.A.’s Pacheco Brothers, David and Rene (formerly known as Thee Commons) playing “psychedelic cumbia punk.” Local openers are DJ East One and Los Dune Dums. Free to students, $10 for civilians.

Same time Sunday, CenterArts has David Lindley aka “Mr. Dave, the Prince of Polyester” making up for last year’s cancelled show (he was not feeling well) with another patented evening of wide-ranging music on a wide-range of instruments – from the Weissenborn Hawaiian lap steel guitar and Turkish saz to the Greek/Turkish/Irish bouzouki and beyond.

For some unknown reason, Thursday, Sept. 12, is a plentiful night for music. At the Arcata Playhouse, the Playhouse and the Humboldt Folklife Society present an old time music band The Crooked Jades. 

Bandleader Jeff Kazor explains, “The name The Crooked Jades mostly comes from seeing the beauty in ‘the crooked road less traveled.’  We are open and curious to the fringe, the strange, weird, and deemed crooked in society that may not reach the mainstream.” Exactly. Showtime 8 p.m.

At the same time (8 p.m.  Sept. 12) the Sanctuary presents the Albanie Falletta Band playing early New Orleans jazz and string music with Cindy McDermott on mandolin, Ben Bonham on guitars (including steel) and Ronnie Ontiveros on bass. Very nice.

And at The Jam, also Sept. 12, Random Rab, still dusty from Burning Man, drops by with some West Coast electro. “I’ve been working on tons of new music and can not wait to bring it to all my favorite cities and venues,” says Rab. “I always love fall tour and hitting up the West Coast and mountain towns.”

Same Thursday, at 7:30 p.m. the Old Steeple in Ferndale has former Humboldt local Jason Romero and his Canadian wife Pharis playing handmade banjos and old acoustic guitars and singing in harmony. Jason got his start as a luthier crafting banjos in the Arcata Bottoms, played with the Compost Mountain Boys and was a founding member of the Striped Pig String Band. After meeting Pharis at a fiddle fest, the couple married and settled in British Columbia. After earning multiple Canadian Folk Music Awards, the duo took home a 2019 Juno Award for “Traditional Roots Album.” Impressive.

The next night at Old Steeple (9/13 7:30 p.m.) The Work Show heads south for a reprise with music about work by Jeff DeMark and The Gila Monsters, and stories about work (duh) by Doc Stull, Janine Volkmar, Paul Bressoud, Marvin Samuels, Michael Crowley, and, of course the illustrious raconteur, Jeff.

That’s it for now. Maybe next week I’ll get to the 25th anniversary of The Hum (named after Alex of course).



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